A new season brings new changes. New programs, new coaches, new chances for every team and player. Like last season, this blog will complement the excellent job done by our league correspondents.
Over the summer, on the D-III section of the Fan Forum, a user wanted to know what people could change about D-III hockey. I’ve been keeping a list in my head since then, waiting for the start of the season to weigh in on that. So here goes:
1. An autobid for the MCHA – Matt Webb has a fantastic preview on the MCHA and rightfully slams the NCAA for dragging its feet and the right hand not knowing what the left is doing. And while we’re at it, let’s make an exception and give one to the ECAC West as well. It’s one of the strongest conferences in the sport, and the champ always seems to get in anyway.
2. Restore the old 27 game schedule. It’s been a limit of 25 now since 1991 and was even higher in the 1980s (with playoffs, the 1988-89 RIT team played 37 games). Twenty-five ganes (24 in the case of the NESCAC and ECAC East) leave too little room for non-conference games. Norwich, for example, has 19 league games, the Primelink Tournament and their own tournament. And they play Plattsburgh every year. That ‘s it. Until Potsdam dropped out of the Primelink, the Norwich Invitational was the only mystery in terms of who the Cadets would play from year to year. Extend the season one more week and add the two games.
3. Count inter-region games for NCAA selection purposes. First they counted. Then they didn’t, Now some of them do (as long as they are over a holiday break). Just count them and be done with it. The NCAA wanted to discourage these types of games to reduce travel and keep things as regional as possible. Way to hinder your sport. But in reality, the rules may have increased the likelihood of these games taking place since they’re considered almost exhibitions and some teams who may not wanted to take the risk of playing a tough non-region game now see no downside in losing such a game. Just count everything.
4. And while we’re at it, get rid of the regional rankings and go to national ones. Again, NCAA, stop regionalizing a national sport. This isn’t D-III basketball or football, which, frankly, are farther away from their D-I counterparts than hockey is. No other D-III sport has players this close to D-I in terms of talent, with so many coming out of juniors and quality prep programs.
5. Allow D-II teams that abide by D-III rules to participate in the D-III national tournament. There is no D-II in hockey, really. Let’s stop pretending there is.
6. And last, but not least, change the selection criteria for the NCAA to the D-I method, which is straightforward and out in the open. In D-I, teams know exactly what they had to do in their final games of the season to get into the tournament, and the field is selected as soon as the final game was over, because everyone knows what the criteria was and how it is going to be applied. D-III hockey was closer to that a few seasons ago, but now we’re back to a back-room method that excludes teams like UW-Stout and Neumann and can’t provide a rational answer as to why.
OK, I figured to get the rant out of the way so I can focus on what’s going on on the ice in later editions of the D-III Blog. Check back frequently for more on the most underrated college sport.